I am sitting in the living room in my warm house, sheltered from the heavy rain. It’s pounding down and I can’t help but think about a young woman I met Friday night. Her name is Jackie and I know God led me across her path.
I was on my way home from work and had stopped to do some shopping at Walmart. There was a McDonald’s inside this Walmart and I was curious about their new CBO burger. The line inside the McDonald’s was long, so I decided to stop at a different one on my way home.
After thinking about all the possible McDonald’s to stop at between my job and home, I decided to go to the one nearest to my house. Traffic was still heavy on the freeways but I didn’t expect that to be a problem. I was wrong. As I rounded what we know locally as the Marconi curve on Business 80, I ran into heavier traffic than usual. Experience has taught me that if it’s heavy there, it’s likely heavy all the way to downtown. I wasn’t up for that so I exited at El Camino. I usually get off on Arden or Exposition when traffic is heavy, but for some reason I chose El Camino.
With that decision, I also decided to stop at a different McDonald’s, so I drove down Howe Avenue towards home and that McDonald’s. I was really looking forward to trying their new CBO burger…I was hungry!
As I approached the McDonald’s, I recalled that there was (and still is!) a new In-n-Out Burger nearby and an animal-style cheeseburger with animal-style fries suddenly sounded much more appealing. It was an easy decision to make! I drove past the McDonald’s and made the turn that would take me to In-n-Out.
The line at the In-n-Out drive-thru wasn’t too bad for a Friday night and it didn’t take long for me to place my order. Instead of rolling my window up, I left it down to enjoy the smell of the rain-washed air. I also opened one of the books I’d bought at Walmart and began reading. As the cars ahead of me pulled forward, I put the book down, stepped off the brakes and then saw a young woman and her dog on the right, trying to cross the drive-thru lane. I stepped back on the brakes and waved her through, and she ackowledged me with a smile and a wave.
After she crossed the drive-thru lane, she turned to look at me and said ‘Thanks!” with a smile. Then she paused for a moment, took a breath, and asked, “Can you help me? I was just evicted today and don’t have any money for food. Do you have a couple of dollars?”
This young woman looked at me with hope, risking my rejection, and her dog stood patiently by her side. They were both wet and it was a cold evening. I had no cash, and my heart sank. “I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash.” My mind raced, trying to come up with options. The drive-thru line was slow, and I couldn’t get out of my car to buy her something; I didn’t know how long I’d be waiting.
“Maybe you could buy me a burger?” she asked. I looked at the line of cars ahead of me again, then looked back at her. “Sure, I can do that. Meet me at the front door and I’ll buy you a burger as soon as I get through the line.”
Her face brightened with a smile, and she said, “Thank you! I’ll meet you there.” and she walked away, her dog beside her.
Thankfully the drive-thru line went quickly, and after I paid for my meal and received it I drove out of the lane and discovered an open parking spot right in front.
I parked, got out of the car and walked to the front door to meet the young woman with her dog. “What would you like?” I asked her.
“Just a small burger, and maybe one for my dog?”
“Did you want a drink?” I asked, “If so, what kind?”
“One of the employees gave me a water, I don’t need a drink,” she answered. “If you wanted, maybe a small fries?”
“No problem!” I answered. “I’ll be right back.”
It was a busy night inside In-n-Out, but it didn’t take long for me to place my order. “I’d like a double-double with fries, and a plain hamburger.”
While I was in the drive-thru line, I’d been thinking about what to order and it was clear to me. God gives to us generously; He is not a miserly, stingy God with His gifts, and He wanted me to give accordingly to this young woman. I knew I couldn’t do much beyond buying her this meal, but I wanted this meal to be at least as good a meal as I’d order for myself, not less than I’d order for myself.
I felt strongly about that. My gift to this young woman had to be at least equal to what I’d do for myself. I had the money to buy a meal for myself, and I’d just spent money at Walmart buying ingredients to make Christmas cookies, another luxury that this young woman didn’t have. If I was going to skimp on something, it would be for me and not for her and her dog.
After waiting for nearly 10 minutes, I finally got her order and went outside to give it to her. “Did you want ketchup with your fries?” I asked. “I can go inside and get you some.”
“No, I don’t need any ketchup,” she replied. “Thank you so much for this!”
“I also bought a burger for your dog,” I told her.
“Thank you! My name is Jackie.” She reached out to shake my hand.
“God bless you,” she replied with a beautiful smile. She reached inside the bag as her dog was sniffing it, pulled the burger out and began feeding it to him. He was such a polite dog, gently taking the burger pieces from her hand even though he was hungry.
“Thank you,” I said. “I’ll be praying for you.” I felt a bit foolish saying this. It’s such an easy phrase to say, and it can be used as a cop-out to sound good but to really avoid doing something to help. Buying the burgers for her and her dog was easy and didn’t cost me much, but it was the most I could do at that time.
She looked at me again with that beautiful smile and said, “Thank you, I need the prayers.”
We chatted for another moment, then I said goodbye and walked to my car. As I walked past a parked car, I heard a voice come out of it. “That was a really nice thing to do.”
I looked at the man in the car and said, “Thanks,” then continued to my warm, dry car and home. Home to a house with a roof, heat, and plenty of food.
God was there on Friday. He ordained my meeting with Jackie. My seemingly impulsive decisions led me to that moment, where I could be a vessel of His love for her.
My goal in sharing this is to encourage each of you to follow those small urges to step outside your plan. Don’t be so tied to your plans that you miss the opportunities to be used by God.
Be generous with your giving, don’t be stingy. I don’t mean to give what you don’t have or can’t reasonably afford (unless God is clearly telling you otherwise); it’s important to be financially wise but also to give something you would like to receive. When I go to In-n-Out, I don’t order myself the smallest, cheapest burger and drink on the menu and forgo the fries, I buy the animal-style cheeseburger with fries and an extra-large iced tea. I am also blessed with a husband who has no problem with me helping someone in need, who doesn’t count the pennies and make me feel guilty for helping.
God was telling me that He wanted Jackie to know He loved her enough to give her more than she expected, which is why I ordered her the double-double with fries. I wanted her to know that I valued her as a human being, that I respected her as a person, and that I didn’t see her as worth less than me simply because she was homeless and looked a bit rough around the edges.
Let God’s love flow through you to those He puts in your path. It’s not your job to convert them, it’s simply your job to be available to God and let Him use you to fulfill His plan for them. God didn’t call me to preach to Jackie; He simply called me to buy her a double-double cheeseburger with fries, a plain burger for her dog, and most importantly, to acknowledge her as a person, to look her in the eyes and to love her and keep her in my prayers.
Jackie, I prayed for you again today. Wherever you are, I hope you know that God loves you and that you are a beautiful, valuable person and that He delights in you.